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Bev’s sea of faith

Rev Bev Ham, right, celebrates Christmas with one of the ship’s dining stewards. Photo courtesy of Bev Ham
A CONGREGATION mostly interested in a good time, a work place that literally shifts underfoot and the death of a parishioner you’ve only just met – these are some of the challenges of any new ministry.

They were also a few of the circumstances retired Uniting Church minister Rev Bev Ham encountered on what some would consider a dream job; chaplain on an international cruise liner with the Holland America Line.

Ms Ham’s chaplaincy was an opportunity to introduce people to God outside regular church structures. The opportunity arrived after Ms Ham attended a Sunday church service aboard a liner while on holidays last year.

“When this opportunity came up, I hadn’t written a resume in 40 years,” she said. “I began listing High School chaplain in Rabaul, chaplain to the mine at Greenvale, Scout chaplain at Biloela, and the first woman police chaplain at Longreach”.

During a 17-night voyage around New Zealand she led wor-ship on Sundays and at Christmas, and provided counselling for crew and passengers.

“Over the years I have realised that many congregations have no idea how to relate to the community, in its environment, on behalf of Christ.

“Chaplaincy is one avenue to broaden ministry,” she said.

“On a cruise ship, chaplaincy in a relaxed atmosphere offers space to listen and time to encourage people to tell their stories. 

“Through my life’s experience I have come to understand God can work in all situations.”
If the high point was the Christmas Eve service, the biggest challenge on Ms Ham’s maiden voyage was the sudden death of a passenger while at sea.

“I was very involved with the medical staff who tried to save the man and also comforting the widow,” she recounted. 

“They were from Texas so there was the whole issue of getting his body out of Australia and back to the USA.”

Perhaps Ms Ham’s experience with Boy Scouts decades ago allowed her to be prepared, as she had taken a funeral book with her just in case.

“Many people worked as a team in a crisis … from the Captain down to medical and guest assistance people.

“They helped the widow contact her children in the States and moved her and another couple they were travelling with into a hotel at Darling Harbour.”

In retirement, Bev Ham hasn’t been called to walk on water, but she has taken the opportunity to put out from the shore and spend time journeying with people through the storms and calmer waters of life.

Photo : Rev Bev Ham, right, celebrates Christmas with one of the ship’s dining stewards. Photo courtesy of Bev Ham